Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Justice if she will take appropriate action to deal with the prevalence of illegal fireworks being set off in the greater Dublin area in recent weeks; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42510/21]
922. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice if she will request An Garda Síochána to commence Operation Tombola again in 2021 to tackle the increased use of fireworks and bonfires in Dublin; if she will provide additional funding for the operation to take place at this earlier point; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42604/21]
929. Deputy Mark Ward asked the Minister for Justice the status of Operation Tombola 2021; the additional resources allocated to the operation; the commencement date of the operation; if a comparison will be made to same during operation tombola in 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42646/21]
Minister for Justice (Deputy Heather Humphreys): I propose to take Questions Nos. 916, 922 and 929 together.
Fireworks, because they are explosives, are regulated under national and EU legislation and can only be imported into the country under licence and stored and sold in accordance with explosives law. Government policy restricts the availability of all hazardous fireworks to the general public. Licences under the Explosives Act are issued by my Department only for the importation of fireworks which are to be used in organised displays conducted by professional and competent operators.
Part 6 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 gives An Garda Síochána the power to make arrests in relation to the possession of unlicensed fireworks. An example of the penalties faced include a fine of up to €10,000 and up to five years imprisonment if convicted of having fireworks in your possession with intent to sell or supply. Igniting fireworks or throwing an ignited firework at a person or property is also liable to the same severe penalty. These penalties demonstrate the seriousness attached to breaches of the legislation governing the importation and use of fireworks.
I am aware of the distressing impact the improper use of fireworks has on our communities and I share the concerns of the Deputies and of the local communities affected. I know the fear and distress fireworks being set off causes our elderly family members and neighbours and people with sensory challenges and other vulnerabilities. They also have a terrible impact on pets and other animals and livestock.
That is why every year as Halloween approaches, my Department runs a safety campaign aimed at ensuring the public is aware of the dangers of illegal fireworks and bonfires. Taking into account the issues arising and highlighted to me last year, my officials are currently collaborating with a number of relevant bodies such as An Garda Síochána, the Dublin Fire Brigade, the Irish Society for the Prevent of Cruelty to Animals, as well as the local authorities around the country in order to ensure that our messaging for this year is clear, impactful and ready to be launched and rolled out before the end of this month. As always, this messaging will continue to be pushed out across a number of mediums including social media on a regular basis until early November.
In addition to the awareness raising work undertaken by my Department in the run up to Halloween, additional efforts are made by An Garda Síochána at this time of year to combat the illegal importation, sale and use of fireworks, which is known as Operation Tombola.
Operation Tombola also focuses on preventing associated public disorder and anti-social behaviour through the incremental deployment of resources, including Garda Public Order Units to augment local plans as appropriate. The Garda Commissioner has informed me that under Operation Tombola, Assistant Commissioner (DMR) has already issued an instruction to each Chief Superintendent in the DMR to put in place appropriate measures to prevent and detect the organised importation for sale of fireworks in the lead up to Halloween, 2021.
The Assistant Commissioner (DMR) has tasked each Chief Superintendent in the DMR to examine their policing requirements for the Halloween period and to effectively resource and implement their policing plans for this period.
I understand that each Chief Superintendent in the DMR is in the process of engaging with relevant stakeholders including the local authorities to identify, coordinate and implement an appropriate multi-agency strategy for the Halloween period, as part of their policing plans and that the Assistant Commissioner (DMR) has tasked Detective Superintendent, DMR Coordination and Tasking Unit, with ensuring open social media is monitored for any information in connection with anti-social behaviour and fireworks that may inform local Garda operations and initiatives.
In addition to the above measures, the Garda National Community Engagement Bureau have also developed a Halloween safety advice presentation that is aimed at parents/guardians, and which is available for Gardaí to use as part of the Community Policing Toolkit when engaging with community groups or watch schemes. This places emphasis on tips for safety around bonfires and fireworks, emphasising the illegality of the latter and explaining the distress that Halloween can cause to animals and the elderly.
A revised primary schools programme has also been developed focussing on these areas and emphasises that it is the job of the Gardaí to keep children safe. Where it is not possible to deliver these presentations in person, an alternative proposes to use a safety video produced in partnership with Dublin Fire Brigade and Temple Street Children’s Hospital, which informs children of the law in relation to fireworks and the dangers associated with them. It also provides fire safety advice and, with the help of the Garda Dogs Unit, it addresses the distress experienced by animals. Supporting posters and social media material are also available for download from the Community Policing Toolkit.
Finally, I believe that it is important to state that in addition to Part 6 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 referenced above, there are a number of strong legislative provisions available to Gardaí to combat anti-social behaviour more generally which include –
- the Criminal Damage Act 1991;
- Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994;
- the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 2003; and
- the Intoxicating Liquor Acts 2003 and 2008.